By John Bonnette
ST. ALBANS – Bellows Free Academy seniors, Owen Bonnette and Parker Gratton, combined for 165 total yards and two touchdowns as the Bobwhites powered past Champlain Valley Union 16-7 Friday night in St. Albans.
“We worked together as a team and got it done,” Bonnette said. “It was a big game for us to get to 2-2 now we just have to worry about next week.”
After dropping two in a row the Bobwhites (2-2) were without starting quarterback Robert Gamache (shoulder) and Guy Ellis (illness) and desperately needed the victory in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“It is a process, we are slowly getting better each week and I thought we did a better job of finishing tonight which was our goal,” BFA Coach Geoff Murray said. “We had guys out of the lineup so some guys had to step in and step up and I thought they did that.
“I thought Jake Reynolds did a nice job on short notice, he had the touchdown pass and really handled the offense well. I am happy with the way we are progressing and still need to progress a lot more on offense. We will get some more guys back this week which should help our depth.”
After the teams traded possessions early the Bobwhites put together their best drive of the season, marching 74 yards on 13 plays, before Bonnette capped the drive with a tough an 11-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter.
Bonnette took the handoff at the 11-yard line and cut inside right tackle before sidestepping one defender at the 10-yard line and then bulling over another at the two too put BFA 7-0 with 11:54 left in the first half.
“It was an open field and just one guy between me and the endzone, and I took him down,” Bonnette said.
Murray praised the Bobwhites offensive line and Bonnette, who led all rushers with 74 yards on 17 carries, getting the Bobwhites on the board.
“When he breaks the line of scrimmage and gets his momentum going forward he is a tough customer,” Murray said. “We have talked about getting a hat on hat, and on that play, they were blitzing us pretty hard. The line and Dom (Liscinsky) did a great job of picking up their blitzer to give Owen a crease, and he got into that crease. When he runs downhill, that is a big man coming, which is really what we need.
“We have not had enough of that this year so when we can get that going it opens up some things in our offense.”
The Crusaders would even the score in the final seconds of the first half when Seth Boffa raced outside right tackle from one yard out to knot the score at 7-7 just before halftime.
Boffa score capped a 16-play, 65-yard drive, for CVU, that included three fourth-down conversions.
“We missed four tackles that I can think of during that drive,” Murray said. “Credit CVU for taking advantage of that, but if we tackle better we get the ball back late in the half.
“Our defense has played pretty well all year and it was great to see them respond in the second half and pitch a shutout.”
The Bobwhites would take control early in the second half as Reynolds and Gratton hooked up for BFA’s longest play of the year, near the beginning of the third quarter.
On just BFA’s second play of the half, Reynolds rolled to his left and found Gratton on a quick slant. Gratton (6-14 rushing, 2-77, TD Rec.) caught the ball, causing one CVU defender to miss, before racing 65 yards down the left sideline putting the Bobwhites up 15-7 with 9:28 left in the third quarter.
“On that play, I just jumped up for the ball, caught it and made the kid miss a tackle,” Gratton said. “I just saw the open field and took it.”
Murray added, “That play really changed the momentum in BFA’s favor.”
“We have been working on that all week,” he said. “Jake did a great job completing a nice pass and Gratton made a nice catch and made a move. What really sprung him was Cole Woodland, who made a great block downfield enabling Parker to then run into the endzone.
“That was huge for us to get a big play. We have not had enough of those big plays where you get the momentum and everybody gets excited and your confidence grows.”
Cam Dunsmore would add a 39-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to finish the scoring, while Liscinsky also chipped in with 61 yards on 14 carries on offense and two sacks on defense.
The Bobwhites will be looking to now build on that confidence and gain momentum toward a playoff run when they host perennial powerhouse Hartford for Homecoming Friday.
“It is a huge game to hopefully get some potential points for us,” Murray said. “We have a long history with Hartford. They are going to come up here looking to be physical and we are going to have to get to work this week and tackle a lot better.
“Our offense is going to have to score more points and move the ball, I think we will get some more guys back that will add a little depth. We’ll look to clean up some of our fundamentals, put together a plan and hopefully, we can have some success.”